About German television and European values

When there are discussions about the application of journalism standards in Ukraine, one can hear the phrase: “To comply with the BBC standards, let’s first build the UK hereGermany?  At the department of journalism students are taught to speak only the truth, demonstrate all points of view, avoid unnecessary evaluative judgments. And then students get a diploma and face the Ukrainian media realities, where all the idealism and the theory of journalism departments come to nothing.

But German television really does not lie, does not agitate, does not manipulate and even does not show ads at the weekends and every night after 20:00. German standards for journalism are firm, such as the law on the cleanness of brewing, cobblestones and metaphony. Do you think there are some different journalism departments in Germany? No. The Germans just bought a fair TV. Every household every month pays 17.5 euros of TB taxes. And it does not matter, that the house may not even have a TV. “I do not watch TV, then why should I pay?” – is not accepted. You pay not for a broadcaster, you pay for democracy in the country. Organizations and enterprises with 50 – 249 people pay 87.50 euros for public service broadcasting. Do you imagine what are the country-wide amounts?

I became acquainted with two concepts of television in Germany.

The first is Offener Kanal. That is, “open channel”. The main idea – to give an opportunity to absolutely any citizen to create his own media product and show it on an open channel. People come from the street, sign the deal, take the camera, tripod, microphone and go film their video absolutely for free. Then they will be provided with rooms and equipment for installation and sounding. All responsibility for the shooting is on them. In the agreement is written what things to shoot and show is forbidden, such as violence, calls and incitement of hatred, etc. The channel is full of youth, student-journalists, trainees, volunteers. Not a channel, but a lounge area for creativity and soul-searching. Financing is provided partly by means of television taxes, partly from state grants. It’s simply impossible to imagine this in Ukraine at this time.

The second concept is the television itself, as we imagine it. The German Regional Broadcasting Channel MDR (Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk, the Middle German Television and Radio Company).

MDR was created after the fall of the Berlin Wall for television and radio on the territory of three federal states (regions): Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt – about 8.6 million potential TV viewing public. The offices of the television company are in Magdeburg, Dresden, Erfurt, and the main one is in Leipzig. My photo report is from Magdeburg MDR Branch.

MDR’s main objective is to cover the cultural, political, and social life of the region. The channel equally criticizes both the authorities and the opposition, since it is financially independent of all of them.

125 employees of the Magdeburg MDR and about 180 freelancers produce … four programs. The main transmission is a daily half-hour news release “Saxony-Anhalt today”. Every three weeks the program “Fact” – a regional political talk show. Once a month, Quickie show, similar to our “First Million”, is a quiz on the speed of responses. It is clear, that such a work schedule cannot but shock the Ukrainian TV production, with whom I attended the MDR. They are accustomed to spending more than a week on the broadcast content than MDR Magdeburg in a month, with more modest forces. By the way, on one of the shooting facilities on this German channel there are 65 lighting devices. Such a ceiling is simply impressive.

However, the channel is tri-media, that is, it combines television, radio and internet broadcasts. A large number of people work on radio, a separate department is engaged in online broadcasting. Program ratings are not an indicator of the survival of the TV channel, as in Ukraine, it’s just a monitor of the interest of its audience to prevent the programs from being irrelevant. Indeed, “Saxony-Anhalt today” is one of the most popular programs on this earth.

However, if you calculate the total numbers of media products, that MDR produces (collectively all areas) and divide by the amount of tax, then the Germans receive 158 hours of radio content per day, 48 hours of video, plus online offers for only 41 euro cent. The average salary in Germany per year is about € 33,396.

If we compare the above with our Ukrainian realities, in which the majority of media companies belong to the oligarchs, where TV broadcast serves as a platforms for the political and financial confrontation of the owners, where the slang word “jeans” is familiar and understandable to people of different professions, far from journalism, it turns out that European values, journalistic standards in particular, directly correlate with the paying capacity of citizens. If citizens of the country can pay for impartiality, they will receive clear facts every night. If the country has money, social institutions are easy to build.

It is more difficult to build democracy and freedom of speech in a state, that is enveloped by the economic crisis and war.

Tetiana Monakhova

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